Customer Story

Customer Story: SOS Children’s Villages Raises Over $55k Through Their Virtual Toy Drive

2020 was the year of the pivot. For nonprofits everywhere, longstanding events and campaigns suddenly became impossible and the only response was to make changes fast. But sometimes a careful pivot brings more success than an old plan, and that was definitely true for SOS Children’s Villages of Illinois. 

When they realized their traditional holiday gift-giving program wouldn’t be possible during COVID, they made a fast decision to go completely digital and swept past their goals with their virtual toy drive. Here’s how they did it.

About SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages of Illinois is an organization that is committed to providing safe, stable, loving homes for foster children. What makes them unique is that they keep brothers and sisters together in the care of full-time, professional Foster Parents. Foster Parents live in villages, which are clusters of individual homes with shared recreational facilities and administrative offices. This creates a real community that truly supports children as they grow.

In a typical year, one of SOS Children’s Villages’ major campaigns is their Holiday Giving Campaign: they ask supporters to purchase gifts for children so that each family can have an exciting holiday season. In light of COVID, they didn’t want community members in and out of offices making donations or heading out to stores to buy gifts, and they pivoted to an all virtual campaign.

Amy Kaczmarek, Director of Development said “It had to be dollars instead of items,” when they made the move to virtual. They set up their CauseVox site, set their goal to $25,000 and started sharing. Their final total? Over $55,000. Here’s how they did it.


Raising More With Less Effort On CauseVox

To launch their campaign, Amy started with the people who had been there in the past. She reached out to those who had donated gifts during holiday giving in the past and made personal asks of each one. That individual touch went a long way: somewhere between 70 and 80% of those donors came back and donated dollars in 2020. 

They also received another boost by ensuring that their website was search engine optimized. During the holidays, tons of people are searching for organizations that support children, and Amy made sure that they were one of the first results to pop up. It went a long way.

But what really made the difference was centering the mission. Amy focused on one concept above all: “This is about mission, it is about keeping this going, it is about please pivot with us.” 

Keeping the children at the center of all the messaging went a long way. 2020’s campaign actually allowed the organization to do more than they had in previous years. Not only did they deliver holiday gifts to their families, they were also able to provide delivered dinners to families in their villages, which went a long way when grocery shopping was complicated by COVID.

Through it all, what amazed Amy was that she could do it with less work. Historically, the organization had another employee who worked on this campaign, but due to COVID it was just Amy this year. The ease of the CauseVox site and the power of peer-to-peer fundraising meant that a smaller team could raise more.

CauseVox Supports Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers

When asked what one feature of CauseVox made it possible, Amy didn’t hesitate with her answer: “For us it was the peer-to-peer. Honestly I think throughout the whole campaign I was so nervous. I was like ‘how am I gonna get through this year?’ I think throughout the whole campaign I only got one question. I think it was so easy for everybody to use that it just flowed. I had all generations and levels of users. It was just that easy to use.” 

If you’ve ever run a peer-to-peer fundraiser before, you know that only getting a single question throughout the whole process is basically a miracle. But CauseVox made it simple for fundraisers to get their pages set up with no hassle. 

Amy could create copy that pre-populated for fundraisers and gave them a place to start when writing the text on their page. Getting set up took less than 2 minutes, and let the fundraisers focus on what mattered: providing for the kids.


It was also incredibly easy for Amy to use and set up. Not only was the platform great, but she found herself pleasantly surprised at what it was like to run a digital event. All her traditional expenses were gone. ”I kind of laughed at how easy it is to put together a budget for something like this…that was really nice.” 

CauseVox Makes Donor Acquisition Easy

But what truly made this campaign stand out to Amy was something she hadn’t expected: setting up the peer-to-peer page helped her get new donors. Acquiring new donors is one of the most expensive projects when you’re a fundraiser. SOS Children’s Villages is still working on building their culture of individual giving, and this fundraiser helped to launch them into that project because of the peer-to-peer fundraising

Historically, many of their donations came from companies that would collect internally and make a single donation of gifts. This year, all those individuals gave through the peer-to-peer fundraising pages on CauseVox, and Amy suddenly had access to their name and contact information. Through the campaign they received donations from 419 new donors, which accounted for 75% of all their new donors in 2020.

“We don’t expect to convert them all, but what we do have in place for those particular donors is their own track,” shared Amy, “We are communicating with them independently of everyone else.” With a special email series tailored to onboarding these new donors, Amy is excited about converting even a portion of these new donors to become longterm supporters.

Lessons Learned

Over the course of the campaign, there were some great takeaways that Amy shared with us about how she more than doubled her original goal. Here’s what she used to create such a successful campaign.

1. Use Your Donation Tiers To Increase Gifts


In the past, SOS Children’s Village has had one big thing in their corner: donors get to go to the store and purchase actual gifts. They can see where their dollars are going and imagine the child who will receive the gift. To help their donors make that same connection, they created donation tiers that showed how much each gift would cost and show exactly where the dollars were going.

2. Don’t Be Afraid To Go Virtual

When Amy first realized that her fundraiser would have to move to a virtual space she was intimidated. They had never done it before and no one was familiar with the software. Plus, how could they move a holiday gift program to virtual?

But after just a bit of time coming up with a creative alternative, they realized that they were able to provide more by holding the event virtually. It was so easy for their donors to give, and they could use any extra dollars to provide meals for families. Amy was quick to encourage other organizations to take the chance, even if they’re intimidated.

3. Have The Personal Touch

When recruiting fundraisers, Amy and her staff made individual calls to each of the donors who had supported them in the past. Those personalized calls went a long way towards getting past donors on board for the new format.

4. Peer-to-Peer Drives Donor Acquisition

Scroll back up to the section about donor acquisition and look at those numbers again. This one peer-to-peer fundraiser accounted for 75% of all new donors in 2020. That’s a huge number. If you’re considering a virtual fundraiser and one of your goals is new donor acquisition, peer-to-peer fundraising should be your focus.

5. Corporate Partners Can Play Too


When we think of peer-to-peer fundraising, we often imagine individuals creating pages and reaching out to friends and family. But some of Amy’s most successful fundraisers were actually corporate teams that fundraised in the office. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your corporate partners and ask them to raise funds among employees. These can be some of your biggest supporters.

Run Your Virtual Event On CauseVox

CauseVox can help you knock your fundraising campaigns out of the park and raise more with less effort. 

If you’re ready to move your fundraising events to virtual, let CauseVox make the process more simple with less clunk.

Get Started with Peer-to-Peer Fundraising on CauseVox.

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